Ladakh has a mystical quality about it; added with it is a pinch of adventure and a dash of intrigue. Each traveller discovers Ladakh in his or her own way and each has a list of things to do in Ladakh. Everything about this place is fascinating- the gorgeous peaks, the mighty glaciers, the beautiful streams, and the verdant green valleys. Every step you take, with each ounce of air you breathe, you feel as if it is best you can do. And then Ladakh throws a surprise and you are mesmerized with the strange yet beautiful phenomenon, and you are compelled to take one step further. But there are some activities which cannot be missed at any cost. What are they, you might ask? Read on…
The magical monasteries
When you plan a trip to Ladakh, the first thing that comes to the mind is the monastery. Ladakh has been ruled by different dynasties and each has brought their own cultural, traditional and religionists flavor to Ladakh. Buddhism is practiced all over the region, and despite of some rugged terrains and inaccessible areas, preachers and monks have visited the places and built monasteries here. Some of them are in ruins, while others still stand tall. Positioned at a height of 3510 meters, the Lamayuru Monastery is known as the oldest of all. You will be amazed at the magnificent collection of paintings, murals, scriptures and thangkas. But the highlight of your visit is the terrain. It is rugged and interspersed with camps in between.
A visit to Ladakh will be incomplete without the Alchi monastery. This has been constructed on flat lands. As you stand beside the Indus River which flows gently by the monastery, you feel the serenity slowly seeping through your veins. Some of the paintings are from the 11th and 12th century, but one can notice Indian influence on these paintings. The small town of Hemis is known for its monastic organization in the entire Ladakh district. The collections are simply exquisite; the most famous being the statue of Buddha made out of copper stone. The silver and gold stupas are rare pieces of art and are the treat for the eyes. But it is the architectural reminiscent of the Tibetan style which adds to the beauty of the place. The contrast of the rough terrain and the colourful architecture creates a beautiful picture, one that remains etched in the mind forever.
Just 18 kilometers from Leh, one can visit the beautiful Thiksey monastery in the Indus valley. This tall 12-storeyed structure includes a large assembly hall, living quarters and ten temples. This is one of the few monasteries which also have a nunnery. The beautiful statue of Maitreyi Buddha is one of the major attractions here. And as you look into the beautiful stupas, statues, and wall paintings, you know why this place is one of the most coveted destinations in Ladakh tours.
One of the best things to do in Ladakh: trekking in Ladakh
Trekking in Ladakh has always topped the list of the bold and the adventurous. If you are planning a trek in the lower Ladakh it will take approximately 5 days to complete the entire venture. The focal points of this trip are the monasteries, the tiny villages, and the warm Ladakhi people. You can begin your trek from Leh to Spituk village. The next phase of the trek which begins from Spituk and continues till Zinchen could be covered in 4 to 5 hours. As part of this trek you can visit the Hemis National Park and Stok. Another popular trek in Ladakh is through the Markha Valley which gives you ample opportunities to explore the beautiful landscape and the hospitality of the Ladakhi people. Experience a different Ladakh with Tsomoriri lake trek which will take you to the beautiful world of Changthang. And if you are wondering about the things to do in Ladakh, you will be glad to know that you can take a peek into the different world of the Changpa nomads. This place is mainly inhabited by these nomadic tribes and a cup of buttertea with them should be enough to break the ice. In the western reaches of the mighty Himalayas is the Zanskar region. Most of these areas remain inaccessible for a larger portion of the year. Trekking through this region is known as the task of the truly daring. And if you have the dare, you might as well take up the challenge.
For your information: Why choose Shanti Travel for trekking in Ladakh?
Embracing your adventurous self: Motorcycling through Ladakh
Making a list of things to do in Ladakh? Well, it is time to challenge your spirit? A motor cycle ride through the rough terrains of Leh and Ladakh is the perfect way to announce to the world that you can. The roads are not at all easy. Some of them are located at high altitudes of 13,000 feet. And because it is Ladakh it becomes all the more difficult to predict the road and weather conditions. It will be a true ‘weather-beaten’ journey. But it will be definitely be the ride of your life. Generally the tour begins in Manali, and you experience some of the most beautiful passes of the world like Khardungla Pass. This is known as the highest motorable road which is positioned on 5606 meters above sea level. Another prime attraction of this adventure tour in Ladakh is the Bara Lachala, known as the ‘Switzerland of India’.
After you start the journey from Manali, the first challenge will be crossing the Rohtang Pass located in the heights of 3978 meters. You will be literally ‘chilled to the bones’ and as soon as you reach Jispa, a steaming bowl of thupka will provide you instant relief. In the next phase the great Himalayan landscape is rugged and devoid of green. Mountain gets bigger, roads get tougher and weather becomes more unpredictable. Here, you will cross the Baralaccha Pass and soon enter into Sarchu, the border point of Himachal and Kashmir. The roads from Pang to Leh are tarmac roads which are a great relief. On your way, you can visit the Shey and Thiksey monasteries. And then you reach Leh. From Leh to Pangong, you will have a mix of roads. Some are tarmac roads, while others are dirty and patchy. The beautiful Pangong Lake and the changing colour of the waters will leave you spellbound. And for the umpteenth time you will be glad that you are part of this big adventure named Ladakh.
Ride in style: jeep safari
Among the many things to do in Ladakh, it is hard to miss the jeep safari. This is especially designed for those who love the adventure and the danger. Also, because road conditions and weather are always unpredictable, you need a lot of presence of mind for this trip. Traditionally the journey would begin from Manali and you would reach Rohtang Pass. The weather is chilly, but the view is to die for. But as you began your descent from Rohtang Pass, the nature of vegetation changes drastically and now you will be in constant company of Bhaga and Chandra Rivers. A stopover at Keylong or Jispa is a must, because you suddenly have a greater altitude and your body needs time to get accustomed to this rough weather. Your next big destination will be the Bara Lacha Pass which will be covered with snow. The view of the Himalayan range will sweep you off your feet. Sarchu La will be an exception in this journey, as this will be a flat land. The views will be getting better with Pang, Tanglangla. And after you have taken some lovely snaps, you begin your journey towards Leh. Looking at Leh, you can only think of a painter’s dream because the combination of green, brown and gray shades can only match an artist’s imagination.
The rapids and the ruptures: rafting in Ladakh
When you speak about tours and travels in Ladakh, many often omit an important activity: rafting. Rafting in Ladakh is indeed very different. You get to experience a different kind of Ladakh. Those who are the first timers should try the Indus river rafting. Indus starts from Tibet, flows through Leh and Ladakh and then moves on to Pakistan. If you take a look at the ‘danger meter’, the rapids are of Grade II and III. A short course in rafting will be enough to tackle the rapids and the gorges. But always remember Ladakh equals unpredictability. So if you are up for an adventure, you might as well strengthen your heart and tell it not to be fazed at the face of danger. Those who want to test their guts and courage should undertake rafting in Zanskar. This river is known for its Grade V rapids and is a real test of challenge for those who feel that rafting in Ladakh can be fun!
Into the wild – Things to do in Ladakh
It was a Czech/Austrian palaeontologist Ferdinand Stoliczka who first explored the wilderness of Ladakh and came up with many discoveries. The fauna of the region for instance had striking resemblance with that of the Tibetan plateau. But it is the diverse number of birds available in the region that stuck him most. While exploring Ladakh he found many species, a total of 225 which are found in the high-altitude region of Tso Moiriri. So, if you are planning to visit this lake, do not be surprised if you encounter beautiful birds in the wetlands. And for the more adventurous spirit, wildlife in Ladakh will begin with Hemis National Park. Covering almost 4,000 square kilometers, this place is known as the favourite abode of snow leopard. And as every wildlife enthusiast knows that you really need to be patient to have a glimpse of this royal predator. Other species include Great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan blue ship, Tibetan wolf, Asiatic Ibex Skin, Red Fox and Pallas cat. Bird watchers will have the time of their life as they get to see the Himalayan griffon vulture, the golden eagle, Robin accentor, streaked rosefinch, fork-tailed swift and many more.
The polo mania: Ladakh’s sporty side
If you chronicle your travels in Ladakh or activities in Ladakh, you may think about different things like shopping, bird-watching, biking or even rafting. But you may have missed an integral part of Ladakhi people: the polo matches. Although it sounds impossible, polo is quite a popular game and a major source of entertainment among the people of Ladakh. If history is to be believed, polo originated from the neighbouring region of Baltistan. Almost all the major villages of Ladakh have a polo ground and spectators take a keen interest in the game. The beating of drums, the sound of the hooves, and the excitement and the adrenalin rush can be easily gauged by the loud cheers and affectionate whistles from the crowd. The game as it is known in Ladakh is called wild polo, and is a little different from the international games. This game is also a major highlight of the Ladakh Festival. There are several polo clubs as well which organizes regular tournaments and matches. You may not be a polo enthusiast, but you can always join the crowd to cheer for the home team. Cheers are louder when civilian teams play against the Army. And you will be overwhelmed with the enthusiasm and excitement of the otherwise-peaceful Ladakhi people!
Shopper’s Paradise Ladakh
If you want a slice of Ladakh to be part of your life forever, then you should not miss shopping. When you reach a travel destination, the best way to know a place is by visiting the shops or the bazaar. As you absorb the sights and sounds of the place, you truly understand the essence of the region. As you take your tours in Ladakh, and stop at the bazaars of Leh, you can spend an entire day looking at the souvenirs and curios. The Pashmina is definitely the hottest selling item. To be wrapped in the soft warmth of pashmina in the cold winters will feel like a blessing. And if shawls are a little over your budget, you can check the well-knitted socks, caps and mufflers. The thangka paintings on silk with their intricate embroidery are too beautiful to look at. So, why not buy one for your home? They are considered extremely auspicious. The rugs and the carpets, the wooden prayer wheels or the turquoise jewellery will gradually fill up your bags. Think of all the friends and relatives back home, and you would not mind paying the extra bucks for the luggage at airport! After all, who doesn’t need an excuse to buy beautiful things?
A foodie’s journey through Ladakh
It has often been said that you can instantaneously connect with a place with its food. Bonding over food is the best way to interact with the people of the region. So, when you prepare a list of things to do in Ladakh, you simply cannot miss its eateries. Thupka originated in Tibet, was improvised in Ladakh and found its way gradually to the plains. You must have had it a thousand times, but the taste of thupka in Ladakh is simply awesome. And when you have the thupka, you cannot miss the momos. These small dumplings filled up with meat and vegetables will be your best friends during your trip to Ladakh. Now let us talk about some local delicacies like the Ladakhi bread khambir with apricot jam. If you visit any Ladakhi family, the traditional drink that you will be offered is the butter tea. One of the main ingredients consumed by the Ladakhi people is barley. It is used as roasted flour known as ‘tsampa’. It is known as a great energy-booster and can be consumed in many forms like in noodle soup.
There are many who would probably think twice or thrice before undertaking a trip to Ladakh, because it is different. It is like no other place. But to experience its unusual quality will be a unique experience. And when you come back you will have a bagful of tales to tell, because every day in Ladakh is an adventure!
Now you know about the things you can do this summer. May be you have few more in the bucketlist… Let me know about it via comment and I will definitely mention about it in our list of things to do in Ladakh. To enquire about the different itineraries for Ladakh, you can visit our ladakh programs by clicking this link: http://www.shantitravel.com/en/indian-himalayas/ladakh-trekking/